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Doctors Battling North Texas Whooping Cough Outbreak

NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Tarrant and Dallas Counties are still wrestling with a major outbreak of pertussis, the highly contagious bacterial disease also known as whooping cough.

Officials with Dallas County Health & Human Services (DCHHS) sent doctors a letter warning them about the rising number of cases. Dallas County has nearly 330 cases reported so far this year.

The numbers in Tarrant County are even higher -- at close to 600.

On Friday county clinics across North Texas were packed with parents and sick kids. Mother Mayra Garcia had to take in her 9-month-old daughter. "She was coughing really, really bad," she said.

Garcia says she thought her baby girl had whooping cough, but it turned out she doesn't. The mother still made sure her little one got the right vaccinations. "It protects her from the virus' they get."

Tarrant County are also warning doctors in the area about whooping cough.

"Tarrant County has had more cases than anyone else in the state, to date," explained Tarrant County Chief Epidemiologist Russell Jones. "If you get the vaccine you may still get sick [but] it's not as severe and it doesn't' last long, so it does good for a lot of people. It still prevents."

According to Jones, out of the 600 Tarrant County cases more than 100 involve infants, with several of them having to be hospitalized.

"Maybe the vaccination doesn't last as long as we want it to. So at a particular age when the child gets their full series [of vaccinations] at 4 to 5 years of age, and by the time they are hitting 8 years of age it starts to wane," explained Jones.

At Trinity Park Steve Chenault worried about his son, even though the child is up-to-date on all of his shots. The father blames the outbreak on parents who refuse to get their kids vaccinated. "It's very frustrating because they pass it onto everybody else's children," he said. "[It's] people not taking care of their kids, not taking them to the doctor and getting their vaccinations like they are supposed to."

The number of whooping cough cases in Denton is also in the triple-digits. They're reporting 229 cases to date for 2013.

As of November 4 the number of reported pertussis cases across the entire state stood at 2,996. As of November 9 the Centers for Disease Control had the number of cases nationally at 19,978.

Early symptoms of whooping cough are similar to those of a common cold and include a runny nose, low fever and cough.

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